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stoiy ought to hug the soil and be near to earth. Whereas
it was long believed that Holland and Belgium were
separated in the sixteenth century by reason of the
separate " national" feeling in these two parts of the
Low Countries, the view has gained much ground that
a very concrete factor—the strategic importance of the
river-mouths—is responsible for the division, since these
rivers put limits to the Spanish reconquest of that region.
Whether we accept this argument or not, there is a
certain sanity in such an attention to the hard material
factors in history; and the most dangerous hereby of
all is the view which men have so often wished to hold-
namely that Holland and Belgium existed as " souls "
before their separate political existence had started, and
the souls were hankering after separate bodies. Further-
more, though many Marxists seem to apply their
formulas to history by a kind of rule-of-thumb (turning
into rigidity even things which ought to be the very
definition of elasticity), some of them—and particularly
those who have defended the principles of Marxian
history in theory—have shown an admirable if tan-
talising flexibility, realising that from the moment when
they have brought their formulas to the actual facts of
history they can only watch the historical process for
ever complicating itself. Plekhanov wrote some sen-
tences which ought to be taken as a parable by all the
followers of this system:

If, for instance, the dance performed by Australian
Blackfcllows is a reproduction of the activities of the same
tribesman when engaged in collecting roots, we know
where we are...» But a knowledge of the economic life